While everyone is writing about India’s first female president, let me take this opportunity to note another first for India’s president: that Mrs. Pratibha Patil is a Maharashtrian.
Rajdeep Sardesai writes about the euphoria among the Maharashtrian community on his IBN Live Blog.
While I would disagree with him about this, he goes on to further explore Maharashtra’s role in Indian politics, and more specifically, how and why they’ve never really achieved a ‘national leader’ status. On a psychological level:
Mr. Sharad Pawar, in a sense, exemplifies the failings of the contemporary Maharashtra political elite. If the Bengali left has been burdened with an innate superiority complex (many of them still genuinely believe in the Gokhale dictum of a century ago that what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow), the inward-looking attitude of the Maratha leadership has bred a certain inferiority complex, and made it difficult for them to adjust to a wider, more complex world (which is why Mr. Pawar needs a Praful Patel as his political brand manager).
Which brings me to Kumar Ketkar’s op-ed in the Indian Express. He opines that Mrs. Patil’s victory is a non-event in Maharashtra, and says:
The fact is that the average Marathi person is far less ethnically chauvinistic than he is made out to be by the Shiv Sena and the English media. With malice towards none, one can say that Maharashtra does not have the ethnic-cultural-linguistic pride which is so dominant in Bengali, Tamil, Telugu or Punjabi societies.
He describes the different Maharashtra regions having separate identities, and there being no comprehensive Marathi ethos.
As an experiment, I tried thinking of famous Indian personalities and what my immediate thoughts about them were. If I had no specific thought for even a second, I moved to the next. It went something like this (in no particular order):
- Manmohan Singh. Intellectual. Sikh.
- Sachin Tendulkar. Great batsman.
- Saurav Ganguly. Great captain. Bengali.
- Amitabh Bacchan. Superstar.
- Satyajit Ray. Great Bengali filmmaker.
- Amartya Sen. Great economist.
- Rajnikanth. Tamil Superstar.
- Lata Mangeshkar. Great singer. Marathi.
Obviously, the results were mixed. Now, given that artists (singers, filmmakers, actors) are intimately involved with their language, it is not surprising that their ethnicity is closely associated with them. But sportsmen, politicians, etc. are good candidates for this test. I found that for me, the Marathi-ness of various Maharashtrian celebrities is not a fundamental characteristic. Does this resonate with Ketkar’s view and Rajdeep’s inferiority complex theory? What do other Maharashtrians think? Are Maharashtrians less proud of their language/culture/ethos than they should be or other Indians are?
How do other Indians relate to Maharashtrian celebrities? Does their being Maharashtrian strike you in a definite in-your-face kind of fact?
All Photos Credit: BBC
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